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Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba) is a nation in northwest Europe and one of the constituent countries<ref>The website of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom refers to "Countries within a country", stating "The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland".</ref> of the United Kingdom. It occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shares a land border to the south with England. It is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. Apart from the mainland, Scotland consists of over 790 islands.<ref name="Scottish Executive">Template:Cite web</ref>
Edinburgh, the nation's capital and second largest city, is one of Europe's largest financial centres.<ref>Edinburgh, Inspiring Capital - Information for Journalists - "Edinburgh is Europe's sixth largest fund management centre".</ref> Scotland's largest city is Glasgow, which is the centre of the Greater Glasgow conurbation. Greater Glasgow is home to approximately 40% of Scotland's population. Scottish waters consist of a large sector<ref>Image showing 1999 Scottish Fishing and Territorial Waters www.opsi.gov.uk</ref> of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union.
The Kingdom of Scotland was an independent state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union resulted in a political union with the Kingdom of England to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. Scotland's legal system continues to be separate from those of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, therefore Scotland still constitutes a discrete jurisdiction in public and in private international law.<ref>pdf file "For the purposes of the English conflict of laws, every country in the world which is not part of England and Wales is a foreign country and its foreign laws. This means that not only totally foreign independent countries such as France or Russia... are foreign countries but also British Colonies such as the Falkland Islands. Moreover, the other parts of the United Kingdom - Scotland and Northern Ireland - are foreign countries for present purposes, as are the other British Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey." Conflict of Laws, JG Collier, Fellow of Trinity Hall and lecturer in Law, University of Cambridge</ref> The continued independence of Scots law, the Scottish education system and the Church of Scotland have been three cornerstones contributing to the continuation of Scottish culture and Scottish national identity since the Union. However, Scotland is no longer a sovereign state and does not enjoy direct membership of either the United Nations or the European Union.
 Early civilisation
Prior to the Mesolithic period, Scotland was repeatedly glaciated. The ice covered the entire land mass of Scotland and so has destroyed any evidence of early human habitation. The earliest Scottish human settlement, dated to around 8500 BC,<ref>Edinburgh. By Neil Wilson, Tom Smallman: Page 76 Scotland. By Neil Wilson, Alan Murphy: Page 72 Scotlandspast.org - "Radiocarbon dating of carbonised hazelnut fragments found at the site confirmed that Cramond is the earliest Mesolithic site in Scotland, dating back to between 8500 and 8250 BC (calibrated)."</ref> was found at Cramond, near Edinburgh.
A well preserved Neolithic farmstead can been seen at Knap of Howar on Orkney. The building, dated to around 3500 BC, is claimed to be the oldest standing house in the country.<ref>Scotland: A Short History. By Christopher T. Harvie: Page 13</ref> An example of a complete Neolithic village can be seen nearby at the village of Skara Brae, on the Mainland of Orkney. There are many other Neolithic habitation, burial and ritual sites across the Northern and Western Isles such as Callanish on Lewis, Maeshowe and The Ring of Brodgar on Orkney. In southern, crannogs were a common form of dwelling.
After the 8th century BC, Brythonic Celtic culture and language spread into Scotland. The Iron age brought numerous hill forts, brochs, crannogs and fortified settlements which support the image of quarrelsome tribes and petty kingdoms later recorded by the Romans, though evidence that at times occupants neglected the defences might suggest that symbolic power had as much significance as warfare.
The written histories of Scotland began with the arrival of the Roman Empire. The Romans occupied what is now England and Wales. Parts of southern Scotland were controlled by Rome for brief periods as well. The Roman historian, Tacitus, calls Northern Scotland Caledonia<ref>Agricola and Germany. By Anthony Richard (TRN) Birley, Cornelius Tacitus, Cayo Cornelio Tácito</ref>. The name derives from one of the many Pictish tribes in the region who were called the Caledonii.
Pictland became dominated by the Pictish sub-kingdom of Fortriu. The Gaels of Dál Riata settled the region of Argyll. According to legend, the Scottish Saltire flag was adopted by King Óengus II of Fortriu in 832 after a victory over the Northumbrians at Athelstaneford. In 843 Cináed mac Ailpín (King Kenneth Macalpine) from Dál Riata, united the Kingdom of Scotland when he became the King of the Picts and Scots.
In the 10th and 11th centuries, the Kingdom of Scotland had comparatively good relations with the Wessex rulers of England. The period was marked by intense internal dynastic disunity, despite this, Scotland had relatively successful expansionary policies. The Kingdom of Strathclyde was handed over to King Malcolm I by King Edmund of England after an Edmund invaded in 945.<ref>The Anglo-saxon Chronicle. By Darryl Hester, James Ingram (Translator), James Ingram: Page 86.</ref> Around the year 960 and during the reign of King Indulf, the Scots captured the town of Eden which is now called Edinburgh.<ref>The Spottiswoode Miscellany: a collection of original papers and tracts, illustrative chiefly of the Civic and Ecclesiastical history of Scotland. By James Maidment - 1844: Page 444 to 445.</ref> The reign of Malcolm II saw fuller incorporation of these territories. A critical year was 1018, when Malcolm II defeated the Northumbrians at the Battle of Carham.<ref>The Wordsworth Dictionary of British History. By J. P. (John Philipps) Kenyon, Norman Stone: Page 228.</ref>
The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 initiated a chain of events which started to move the Kingdom of Scotland away from its Gaelic cultural orientation. Malcolm III married Margaret. She was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, one of the deposed Anglo-Saxon claimants to the throne of England. Margaret played a major role in reducing the influence of Celtic Christianity. Scotland went through something of its own "Norman Conquest" When Margaret's youngest son David I became King. David I had become an important Anglo-Norman lord through marriage. He was instrumental in introducing feudalism into Scotland. He encouraging an influx of settlers from the Low Countries to the newly-founded burghs which enhanced trade links with mainland Europe and Scandinavia. By the late 13th century, scores of Norman and Anglo-Norman families had been granted Scottish lands. The first meetings of the Parliament of Scotland were convened during this period.
Edward I, King of England, was asked to adjudicate between rival claimants to the vacant Scottish throne after the death of the Margaret, Maid of Norway in 1290. She was the last direct heir of Alexander III of Scotland. Edward I used the political divisions in Scotland to his own benefit. The Scots resisted the English under the leadership of Sir William Wallace and Andrew de Moray. This period is known as the First War of Scottish Independence. In March 25, 1306, Robert the Bruce was crowned, King Robert I. He won a decisive victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. However, warfare flared up again after Robert I's death. This was the Second War of Scottish Independence from 1332 to 1357. The situation in Scotland began to stabilise with the emergence of the Stewart dynasty.
In 1542 James V died leaving only the infant child Mary I of Scotland as heir to the throne. Mary was only six days old when her father died. She was crowned when only 9 months old. The country was ruled by a Regent while Mary grew up. This began a period known as The Rough Wooing. This was also the time of John Knox and the Scottish Reformation. Intermittent wars with England, political unrest and religious change dominated the late 16th Century. On July 24, 1567, Mary was also forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her one-year-old son James VI.
In 1603, Elizabeth I of England died. Thus James VI King of Scotland also became King James I of England. With the exception of a short period under The Protectorate, Scotland remained a separate state. There was considerable conflict between the crown and the Covenanters over the form of church government. After the Glorious Revolution and the overthrow of the Roman Catholic James VII by William and Mary, Scotland briefly threatened to select a different Protestant monarch from that of England. The Alien Act of 1705 was a law passed by the Parliament of England, in 1705, as a response to the Parliament of Scotland's Act of Security of 1704, which in turn was a response to the English Act of Settlement 1701.
The Alien Act provided that estates held by Scottish nationals in England were to be treated as alien property, making inheritance much less certain. It also had an embargo on the import of Scottish products into England and English colonies - about half of Scotland's trade, covering sectors such as linen, cattle and coal.
The Act contained a provision that it would be suspended if the Scots entered into negotiations on the dispute between the two parliaments. Combined with English financial offers to refund Scottish losses on the Darién scheme, it achieved its aim, leading to the Act of Union 1707 uniting the two countries as the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The deposed Jacobite Stuart claimants had remained popular in the Highlands and north-east, particularly amongst non-Presbyterians. Two major Jacobite risings launched from the Highlands of Scotland in 1715 and 1745. The latter uprising was lead by Bonnie Prince Charlie, aka "The Young Pretender". It climaxed with the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden on 16 April, 1746.
 The Industrial Revolution
During the Scottish Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, Scotland became one of the commercial, intellectual and industrial powerhouses of Europe. After World War II, Scotland experienced an industrial decline.
As one of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom, the head of state in Scotland is the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952). Constitutionally the United Kingdom is a unitary state with one sovereign parliament and government. Under a system of devolution (or home rule) adopted after Scottish and Welsh referendums on devolution proposals in 1997, most of the constituent countries within the United Kingdom were given limited self-government, (except England). The British Parliament in Westminster retains the ability to amend, change, broaden or abolish the devolved governmental systems at will. As such the Scottish Parliament is not sovereign. However, it is thought unlikely that any British parliament would unilaterally abolish a home rule parliament and government without consultation via a referendum with the voters of the constituent country.
Executive power in the United Kingdom is vested in the Queen-in-Council, while legislative power is vested in the Queen-in-Parliament (the Crown and the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster in London). Under devolution executive and legislative powers in certain areas have been constitutionally delegated to the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh respectively. The United Kingdom Parliament retains active power over Scotland's taxes, social security system, the military, international relations, broadcasting, and some other areas explicitly specified in the Scotland Act 1998 as reserved matters. The Scottish Parliament has legislative authority for all other areas relating to Scotland, and has limited power to vary income tax, but has never exercised this power. The Scottish Parliament can refer devolved matters back to Westminster to be considered as part of United Kingdom-wide legislation by passing a Legislative Consent Motion if United Kingdom-wide legislation is considered to be more appropriate for certain issues. The programmes of legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament have seen a divergence in the provision of public services compared to the rest of the United Kingdom. For instance, the costs of a university education, and care services for the elderly are free at point of use in Scotland, while fees are paid in the rest of the UK. Scotland is the first country in the UK to ban smoking in public places.<ref>BBC Scotland News Online "Scotland begins pub smoking ban", BBC Scotland News, 2006-03-26. Retrieved on 2006-07-17. (in English)</ref>
The Scottish Parliament is a unicameral legislature comprised of 129 Members, 73 of whom represent individual constituencies and are elected on a first past the post system; 56 are elected in eight different electoral regions by the additional member system, first elected on the 6th May 1999 and serving for a four year period. The Queen appoints one of the members of the Parliament, on the nomination of the Parliament, to be First Minister. Other Ministers are also appointed by the Queen on the nomination of the Parliament and together with the First Minister they make up Scottish Executive, the executive arm of government. The current (since 2001) First Minister is Jack McConnell of the Labour Party, who forms the government on a coalition basis with the Liberal Democrats. The main opposition party is the Scottish National Party, which campaigns for Scottish independence. Other parties include the Conservative and Unionist Party, the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party.
Scotland is represented in the British House of Commons by 59 MPs elected from territory-based Scottish constituencies. The Scotland Office, a department of the United Kingdom government led by The Secretary of State for Scotland, is responsible for reserved matters. The Secretary of State for Scotland sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom and prior to devolution headed the system of government in Scotland. The current Secretary of State for Scotland is Douglas Alexander. Until 1999, Scottish peers were entitled to sit in the House of Lords.
Political debate in Scotland has revolved around the constitution and this dominated the Scottish political scene in the latter half of the 20th century. Under the pressure of growing support for Scottish independence all three UK-wide parties advocated a policy of devolution to some degree during their history (although Labour and the Conservatives have also at times opposed it). Now that devolution has occurred, debate continues over whether the Scottish Parliament should accrue additional powers (for example over fiscal policy), or seek to obtain full independence with full sovereign powers (either through independence, a federal United Kingdom or a confederal arrangement). It remains to be seen whether the current devolution system satisfies Scottish demands for self-government or will strengthen demands for full-blown independence.
Scots law has a basis derived from Roman law combining features of both uncodified civil law, dating back to the Corpus Juris Civilis, and common law with mediaeval sources. The terms of the Treaty of Union with England in 1707, guaranteed the continued existence of a separate legal system in Scotland from that of England and Wales. Prior to 1611, there were several regional law systems in Scotland, most notably Udal Law in Orkney and Shetland — based on Old Norse Law. Various other systems derived from common Celtic or Brehon Laws survived in the Highlands until the 1800s.
Scots law provides for three types of courts responsible for the administration of justice in Scotland: civil, criminal and heraldic. The supreme civil court is the Court of Session, although civil appeals can be taken to the House of Lords in London. The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court. Both courts are housed at Parliament House, Edinburgh which was the home of the pre-Union Parliament of Scotland. The sheriff court is the main criminal and civil court. There are 49 sheriff courts throughout the country.<ref>Scottish Court Information www.scotcourts.gov.uk </ref> District courts were introduced in 1975 for minor offences. The Court of the Lord Lyon regulates heraldry in Scotland.
Scots law is also unique in that it allows three verdicts in criminal cases including the controversial 'not proven' verdict.<ref name="Parliament of Victoria, Australia">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name="The Journal Online">Template:Cite web</ref>
Modern Scotland is subdivided in different ways depending on the purpose. For local government, 32 council areas were set up in 1996<ref>Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994</ref>. These are administered by 32 unitary authorities responsible for the provision of all local government services, including education, social work, environment and roads services. Some of the larger councils are further divided into area committees. Community councils are informal organisations that represent specific sub-divisions of a council area.
There are 35 lieutenancy areas, for which the Queen appoints a Lord Lieutenant to represent her (except for Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen — where the democratically elected Lord Provost is the Lord Lieutenant, ex officio). There are six sheriffdoms for administering justice. For the Scottish Parliament, there are 8 regions. These are then sub-divided into 73 constituencies. For the Parliament of the United Kingdom there are 59 constituencies. The Scottish fire brigades and police forces are still based on the system of regions introduced in 1975. For healthcare and postal districts, amongst others, Scotland is subdivided in various other ways. Non-governmental organisations, notably the churches, have other long-standing methods of subdividing Scotland for the purposes of administration.